Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Beautiful contrasts

Photo: New York University Medical School Asian Students Union.

I ran two mornings out of three this week (Sunday and Tuesday), and the two sites were extreme -- and beautiful -- contrasts.

Sunday morning, running partner Dennis and I strode on the frost-covered flats of Swiss Valley Park, southwest of Dubuque. We were only two of a handful of people occupying the majestic , largely wooded 62 acres.

Tuesday morning, I ran along Chicago's famed Lake Shore Drive, starting north at 800 North and turning around near Lincoln Park. On my way back, the sun emerged from the horizon of Lake Michigan. Even though I was in one of the world's largest cities, with rush-hour traffic buzzing past nearby, the bike-pedestrian path along the shoreline does provide a sense of peace and quiet.

Photo: Dubuque County Conservation Board

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dubuque native home for book-signing

Saturday's activities for yours truly included a visit to River Lights Second Edition bookstore to have Dubuque native Tom Jones -- er, Tom LaMarr -- autograph a copy of his second novel, "Hallelujah City."

A long-time Colorado resident, the brother of Dubuque City Council Member Ric Jones was back in his hometown for the signing and, no doubt, catching up with friends and family.

The novel received a positive review from Tom's home-state Denver Post. Further, a voroacious reader with whom I am acquainted sped through the first four chapters in an hour and is anxious to finish it. That's high praise!

Another assist

Ray Schalk recorded 1,811 assists in his major league baseball career (1912-29). Recently, I received an assist on his behalf.

The directors of the Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum (Nokomis, Ill.) have agreed to allow me to publish the Ray Schalk photos in their collection in my Schalk biography.

The only hitch is working out the details of acquiring digital files of the images without the actual prints leaving the museum premises. However, that can be arranged, I'm sure.

Part of the collection is this shot of a young Ray Schalk.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Making a Difference

Several years ago, USA WEEKEND, the magazine supplement carried in the Telegraph Herald and hundreds of other papers, created Make a Difference Day.

Described as "the most encompassing national day of helping others -- a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors," the event is locked into the fourth Saturday of October.

The Telegraph Herald's program this year was a Fall Festival -- games, face-painting and, of course, food -- at the Boys and Girls Club. Some 50-60 kids and a few parents turned out.

Taking the lead in volunteering for the event were students in the Dubuque Area Youth Leadership Council.

Cooperating business sponsors were Carlos O'Kelly's, Kwik Stop, Younkers, Factory Card Party Outlet, Rockford Industrial Welding Supply. And, of course, thanks to the Boys and Girls Club for staff and facilities support.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Young reader gets into the newspaper

A proud mother sent me this fun photo of one of the Telegraph Herald's youngest fans. I can't quite tell if he's turned to the Opinion page or the baby notices.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where there's a Will there's a crowd

Washington Post columnist George F. Will delivered a lecture Wednesday night before several hundred people on the campus of his host, the University of Dubuque.

His themes included personal responsibility and government-sponsored entitlements, which are diametrically opposed. Conservative themes.

I suspect that Will has delivered this talk -- or something quite similar -- on many occasions, his delivery was so smooth and his recall of specific details so certain. Then again, he was no less so during the question-and-answer segment, fielding disparate questions from the gold standard to terrorism to social issues.

As a member of the audience, I felt that his hour-plus went quickly.

Sorry about the fuzzy nature of the video clip; I was working from the cheap seats!

In any case, it was an informative and thought-provoking program, and certainly worth missing the opening innings of the opening game of the World Series.

Mini-endorsement season

Considering the parade of presidential candidates visiting the tri-state area (at least the Iowa portion), it could be easy to overlook the fact that there will be an election even before the Iowa caucuses — whenever those are finally scheduled — and the major votes of 2008.

On Nov. 6, Iowans will elect city council members.

While the 2007 general election doesn’t attract the media attention or voter interest of campaigns for the White House, Congress or governor’s mansion, local representation is important nonetheless.

In advance of the Dubuque City Council election, the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board is publishing endorsement editorials on the three races, 2nd Ward, 4th Ward and at-large.

The endorsements are based on our evaluation of the candidates’ qualifications, track record and positions on (and articulation of) the issues. This review usually includes interviews with candidates; this year, editorial board subcommittees met with each person running in the Dubuque general election.

Endorsement editorials usually spark some protest — usually from those who disagree with the opinion expressed. The complaint is along the lines of, “A newspaper has no business telling people how to vote.”

Throughout their history, newspapers have published editorials, which reflect the institutional opinion of ownership or its designee (in our case, the TH Editorial Board). The editorials’ purpose is not so much to cause people to take a particular action or hold a certain opinion (though we do hope the editorials do have some influence), but primarily to stimulate debate, discussion and personal evaluation on issues of community importance.

We hope that voters will consider what we have to say about the candidates, just as they might weigh endorsements from their civic groups, labor organization or next-door neighbor. But ultimately we hope that they do their own research on the candidates and cast an informed vote on election day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fall frolic

A sure way to increase traffic on one's blog is to run pictures of one's grandchild. Here's Claire hard at work in an autumn activity. (Photo courtesy of her parents.)

"Border to Border" exhibit not to be missed

The highlight of my Monday was my appointment with Clarke College professor and friend Abdul Sinno and his son Rafic to see their photography exhibit on campus.

"Border to Border: A Journey of the Mississippi," featuring more than five dozen photographs captured along the fantastic length of America's River, is an exhibit not to be missed.

Seeing the photos was one thing; to receive personal commentary from the photographers themselves added to the experience.

Over the last few years, Abdul and Rafic have traveled the length of the Mississippi, from its origin at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico near Pilottown, La. Last year they published a book of images, "Treasures of the Mississippi: Panoramas & Poetic Reflections," from the Upper Mississippi (between St. Paul and St. Louis).

In this exhibit, 10 states touching the Mississippi are represented, but their show includes plenty of scenes from this area -- some from common angles and other from perspectives that are less familiar.

As someone who was born in a Mississippi River city and who has lived in three other communities on its shore (Quincy, Ill.; Winona, Minn.; and now Dubuque), I am partial to these river scenes. However, I don't think I'm being unreasonably partisan when I say that I was most impressed with the images.

The exhibit is scheduled to end Oct. 31, but it's possible it might close a couple of days early due to construction schedules on campus. Don't take a chance: Take time now to stop in the Atrium Conference Room at Clarke and enjoy this exhibit.

(The video clips cuts off early -- sorry, Rafic! -- but you get the idea.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Coffee with Miles

As mentioned in previous posts, one of the unanticipated benefits of having a baseball biography on the market is meeting some fascinating people. From time to time I receive phone calls, letters and e-mails from folks who have read my Red Faber biography.

Such was the case Thursday, when I had coffee with Miles Conway, who phoned me and asked to get together.

Conway could be a book subject himself. A lifelong baseball devotee and Chicago White Sox booster -- his father was a fan of Red Faber -- Conway attended Loras College in Dubuque. For a couple of seasons in the early 1950s, he played for one of the barnstorming teams of the House of David, affiliated with a religious sect based in Benton Harbor, Mich. These teams were distinctive not only for their baseball talent but for the players' long beards (think ZZ Top).

Conway lived most of his life in Chicago but resided for several years in the Twin Cities. Long retired, he now spends his time attending ball games (he prefers club and minor-league contests) and taking long-distance bicycle rides.

Earlier this year, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune published a feature story about him.

My only regret was that we didn't have more time for our conversation. Duties in the newsroom called, and Miles had, well, some miles to ride.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It was 90 years ago today (well, Monday)

The timing was coincidental, but it was fitting that I presented my Red Faber slideshow to the Cascade Lions Club on Monday.

Monday, Oct. 15, 2007, marked exactly the 90th anniversary of the Chicago White Sox' clinching victory the 1917 World Series.

The winning pitcher in that final game -- Game 6 -- was Urban "Red" Faber, native of Cascade. In fact, Faber was the pitching hero of the series, winning three games (a record for a six-game series).

Facing the New York Giants, Faber won Game 2, lost Game 4, won Game 5 in relief and then, after a travel day, turned around and won Game 6 in a complete-game clincher.

Things were quiet in Cascade on Monday, when the Lions heard my presentation, based on my biography, and then toured the newly reopened Faber wing of the Tri-County Historical Museum. The community was much livelier 90 years ago that evening, after news of the Cascade boy's accomplishments arrived at the telegraph office.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Link to history

I gave my slideshow program on Red Faber to the Galena (Ill.) Rotary Club on Friday, and afterward received a pleasant surprise.

A member of the audience, Bud Austin, once witnessed Faber pitching to the legendary Babe Ruth!

Mr. Austin, now nearly 95 years old, did not recall much about the baseball confrontation, except that it was in 1927 in Chicago's Comiskey Park. That season, the Yankees, powered by Ruth's steroid-free 60 homers and Lou Gehrig's 175 RBI, went 110-44 to win the American League and sweep Pittsburgh in the World Series.

The occasion pictured shows Ruth congratulating Faber on Red Faber Day, in August 1929. A decade earlier, Ruth described Faber as "the nicest guy in the world."

The Fabe and The Babe entered the majors the same season -- 1914. Though Ruth, then a pitcher, returned to minors briefly, Faber remained in the majors until his retirement after the 1933 season.

Though in those days Mr. Austin was one of only hundreds of thousands to have seen Ruth and Faber square off over 20 seasons, he is a rare man today.

Photo: Chicago Daily News Collection

Dubuque makes quotation mark "blog"

A few months ago, I wrote a TH column and NewsConference entry about a fun blog, The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. The blogger is graduate student Bethany Keeley.

Now, a Dubuque enterprise has made Bethany's blog. Check it out.

The sign would also qualify for a Blog of Misspelled Signs.

Monday, October 08, 2007

99 years!

It's not so much that the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 that frustrates me. It's not that they failed to make the World Series once since 1945 (when most of the good players were in the military). It's that they looked so bad doing it.

The Cubs rebounded from early- to mid-season disasters, rallied into first place and survived a sweep by the Florida Marlins in the final week of the regular season (while Milwaukee folded) to win their division. They earned a playoff berth for the first time since their 2003, when they faded just a handful of outs from the World Series.

They worked that hard just for the right to look that bad in the playoffs?

Granted, the Cubs barely won more than they lost in the regular season. They were in a weak division. They were not favored going into the post-season. But that didn't stop the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, when they stumbled into the playoffs but then won the whole thing. Lots of wild card teams have won the whole thing.

Some teams have rebuilding years. For the Cubs, it's a rebuilding century. Since their 1908 win, the Cubs are 0-7 in World Series appearances (1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945).

Now, going into the 2008 season, Cub fans can look forward to countless references to the fact that this will be the 100th season since their last World Series victory. I can't wait.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sharp-dressed men

Folks in Dubuque who prefer variety in their entertainment choices should be pleased with their options this month.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, the rock band ZZ Top performs in the Five Flags Civic Center. The band's hits include such titles as "La Grange," "Sharp Dressed Man," "Tush," "Tube Snake Boogie," "Legs" and "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide."
The very next night, Dubuque hosts someone who might not be "bad," but he is "nationwide" and a sharp-dressed man. On Wednesday, Oct. 24, conservative columnist George Will. The Pulitzer Prize-winner will give the keynote address at the University of Dubuque's Wendt Character Initiative Fall Conference.

Who says there is nothing to do in Dubuque?

Photo credits: ZZ Top.com and Washington Post Writers Group.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Chamberlin event at Iowa State University

Sandy Johnson, Washington bureau chief of The Associated Press.
Chuck Raasch, national political correspondent and columnist, Gannett News Service.

I spent part of Tuesday and all Wednesday on the campus of Iowa State University, where the Greenlee School of Journalism hosted its inaugural Chamberlin Lecture.

In addition to visiting with students individually and in classes, I had the honor of introducing the guest speakers, Sandy Johnson and Chuck Raasch, a Washington-based husband-wife team.

Sandy Johnson is Associated Press bureau chief in Washington, and Chuck Raasch is national political correspondent and columnist for Gannett News Service, serving the nation’s top-circulation newspaper chain.

Of the 1,500 daily newspapers in the United States, precious few – these days, make it none -- have the resources to place their own reporters in Washington, New York and key places around the nation and the world.

Instead, our newspapers subscribe to wire services. That’s where the speakers come in.

Their news decisions and their reports go out hundreds of newspapers, and thus hundreds of thousands of readers. They have tremendous influence over what information Americans receive and thus, to a degree, the shape of public opinion.

As an editor, working in the Heartland, I have to trust The AP. I’m sure that the Gannett editors feel likewise about The AP and Gannett News Service. Are they reporting the news fairly and objectively? Are they pursuing the right stories? Are they missing anything? We are effectively powerless, from hundreds of miles away, to fact-check and verify their work.

Chuck and Sandy are graduates of South Dakota State University.

They are married – to each other – and have been so for 28 years. That’s a remarkable achievement, especially considering they are not at liberty to always share what they are doing or planning. They have two college-age sons, both outstanding students, who are not on track to follow their parents’ career choice.

Chuck Raasch has filed bylines from 49 states – every state but Hawaii. Chuck has also filed from four continents.

If the Guiness Book of Records keeps track of these things, Chuck might claim the one-day record for experiencing widest temperature variance. While reporting for USA Today, he moved from one assignment -- Yuma, Ariz., at 85 degrees -- to International Falls, Minn., where it was 35 below zero. He wasn’t anticipating the Minnesota trip, as his expense report for $350 in warm clothing would attest.

A native of South Dakota, Raasch has covered political campaigns since 1978. He is a former Knight Fellow at Stanford University.

Let’s hit the "back" button. It’s the year 2000, and it’s a tense and crazy and historic election night. It appears that George Bush has pulled out a close decision over Al Gore for the U.S. presidency. The projection is based on the projections from Florida, where the vote differences in some precincts are incredibly small.

So, the TV networks, which earlier that evening had to rescind some of their “calls,” are declaring Bush the winner. Newspaper editors across the country, bumping against their deadlines, are watching that on TV, but there is a problem. The AP is not calling the election for Bush. Where is the AP story declaring Bush the winner? What’s the problem?

The problem is Sandy Johnson, whose duties as bureau chief for The Associated Press in Washington include deciding how the major election story is written.

Against great pressure from editors and news directors all over the country, she refuses to call the Bush-Gore race. Based on what she knows about Florida voting trends, she is not convinced that Bush has won the state – and thus the presidency.

It would have been easy for her to follow and pack and figure, hey, if we’re wrong, at least we ALL were wrong.

Though she confuses and angers many of her member editors – including me – she sticks to what she thought was right. And she was right. The election was not decided that night. It took a Supreme Court decision to settle the matter.

Her members got over it. The Associated Press Managing Editors subsequently presented her with the group’s presidential award for her courage and judgment.

It was a pleasure for me to meet and introduce Sandy and Chuck during our time at ISU. Sandy had to return to Washington for an editors convention immediately after her remarks, but Chuck stayed Wednesday and spoke to journalism classes and individual students.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Freedom of Information -- past, present and future

The annual meeting of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council was held Sept. 28 in Des Moines. (As a past president, I'm a member of the organization's executive committee.)

The program included a special award for citizens of Riverdale, Iowa (above), who -- at great personal expense, anguish and time -- who have taken their city government to court (and won) over the illegal withholding of public documents. Pictured are, from left, Allen Diercks, Marie Randol and Tammie Picton. (Their lawyer, from the Quad Cities, is Dubuque native Michael Meloy.)

Also featured was a panel discussion focused on the legislative task force looking at revisions of the Iowa open meetings and open records laws. Among the panelists were Keith Luchtel, lobbyist for the Iowa Newspaper Association (at left in the videos), and state Sen. Mike Connolly, D-Dubuque, co-chair of the task force.

Also shown in one video shot are panelists Herb Strentz (far end of table), founding executive secretary of the Iowa FoI Council, and Lee Rood, Des Moines Register reporter.

In the videos, Luchtell and Connolly discuss the task force's task -- which is formidable.